Sunday, December 30, 2012

Make It Count

     Over the course of the past week, I've been doing a lot of thinking.  Here is what I've concluded:

LIFE IS PRECIOUS...And I must live it accordingly.
  • I will work at my relationships.
  • I will make time for the people that I care about.
  • I will be grateful for hellos and careful with goodbyes.
  • I will not sweat the small stuff.
  • I will be quicker to agree to disagree.
  • I will love fiercely and leave no room for regret.
  • If I have something nice to say: I will say it.
  • I will forgive those in need of forgiving.
  • I will apologize when I've behaved inappropriately.
  • I will live with the intention of loving whatever life has to offer.
  • I will search for silver linings during less than desirable circumstances.
  • I will appreciate the little things that often bring the greatest amount of joy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Necessary Release

  • I snapped at Craig today...which means I'm not writing.
  • The messy house is driving me crazy...which means I'm not writing.
  • I'm on edge even after a workout...which means I'm not writing.
  • I'm craving chips and dip...which means I'm not writing.
  • I am struggling to find motivation...which means I'm not writing.

You see, I possess 3 guaranteed releases in life:
1.) Exercise: Already tried.
2.) The Unmentionable: The kids are home and Craig is not = not an option.
3.) Writing...So here I am.

And I'm already starting to feel better.  I just exhaled a deep, calming breath.

  • I realize how silly I must have sounded to Craig during my rant this morning.  No wonder he smiled.  I hate it when he does that.  Because then I smile too, before I'm done being frustrated.  Clever man.
  • I accept that the house will be messier for the next few weeks while the kids are home.  It is what it is.  And I'd rather have them 'home and messy' than 'not home and clean.'
  • At least I worked out.  I'd feel much worse if I hadn't.
  • I'll save the chips and dip for later when my salt-junkie-of-a-friend can join me.  Then I'll really enjoy my guilty pleasure.
  • I'm ready to roll now.  I took time for me.  I looked inside from the outside.  And if that's all I have to complain about?  Well, then I'm one lucky lady.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Star Strikes

     We took the kids to a charity bowling event yesterday supported by the NBA.  Usually I'm a horrible bowler.  But yesterday I was on a hot streak.  I bowled two strikes and a spare early on.  
     The attractive black man in the lane next to ours was impressed.  "Shoot!  I'm gonna have you throw my ball for me!" he said.
     I laughed.  " don't want me!  This is the best I've ever bowled!" I admitted.  
     He didn't believe me.  "Are you a hustler?" he teased.  
     "Sshhh!!!  Don't tell!" I joked back and winked at him.

     A little while later, Gabe said to me, "Mommy!  I can't believe I got to bowl with Chris Paul today!"
     "Who's Chris Paul?"  I asked.
     "MOMMY!!" he addressed me with frustration.  "How can you not know who Chris Paul is?!"
      "I don't know."  I shrugged my shoulders.  "Who is he?" I asked.
      "He's practically the best player in the entire NBA!" he professed with excitement.
     "Good for you, buddy!  Did you talk to him?" I asked.
     "Oh my gosh, Mommy!" Gabe giggled and rolled his eyes.  "Yes, I talked to him!  And so did you!" he focused on my ignorance.
     "I did?" I asked.  "Who was he?"
     "Mommy!  He was the guy that asked you to bowl for him!" he pointed out.
     "Oh!  Really?" I asked.
     "Yes!" Gabe shook his head in defeat.
     "Well, then it's a good thing I was bowling strikes today!" I said with exaggerated relief.
     "Mommy...You don't even care that it was Chris Paul?" he asked me.
     "Honey, I don't even know who Chris Paul is.  But I do know that the guy that bowled beside us today was nice and happy to be here.  And for those reasons: I like him," I told him honestly.
     "So when he's on TV blowing up the court, you're going to cheer for him because he's 'nice and happy?'" Gabe challenged with macho sarcasm.
     "Well, that and the fact that he thinks I'm cool," I nudged him playfully.
     Gabe sighed.  He knew he wasn't going to get anywhere with his dorky old mom.  
     "Well," he confessed, "I guess that's a good reason to cheer, too."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Momma Bear

     I loved being a parent today.  I got to chaperone my eight year-old twin daughters’ second grade field trip.  It was a morning full of laughter and fun.  I got to know the girls’ classmates in a relaxed atmosphere; what a great group of kids.  Their innocence made me laugh as they participated in casual conversation.  One boy told me he wanted to be a cartoonist when he grew up, even though I think he was born to be a comedian.  Another boy declared with conviction that he wanted to be an elbow doctor.  Sydney and Taylor snuck in spontaneous hugs and snuggles all morning long.  Their youthful spirit, camaraderie and light-heartedness was contagious.  My heart burst with grateful joy for this time spent with my daughters and their classmates.
     AND THEN...
     Then I heard the news of the school shooting.  
     I was crushed by the undeniable presence of evil in this world.  Tears formed in my eyes as I read the latest death toll.  I shivered with confused disgust as I imagined the horrific acts of violence committed against the innocent and unsuspecting victims.  I was flooded with panicked empathy as I tried to imagine the terror of the unknown as parents raced to the school to find out if their children were dead or alive.  I was depressed for those children and adults who will be tainted by the trauma of this one day for the rest of their lives.
     Then my compassion turned into anger.  How could anyone be so cruel?  So heartless.  So evil.  What demons could possibly possess anyone to make the choice to murder an entire Kindergarten class, among others?  I just don’t get it.
     My mind won’t stop spinning.  My heart won’t stop aching. 
     I will hug my babies tighter tonight.  I will pray for those families who can no longer do so.  And I will continue to keep a vigilant eye on the safety of my kids, no matter how paranoid I may seem.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Call Me, Baby

     Female conversation has proven that most men behave like babies when they're sick.  They expect to be doted upon and nurtured.  They shed the titles of husband and father.  They think nothing of lying in bed until they feel better.  I used to be annoyed by this.  But then one day while I was taking care of my own sick little boy it hit me: Women, we are our own worst enemies.  
     Gabe had a bad case of the flu.  Between feverish naps, he asked for chocolate milk.  Before I could answer, he rose sluggishly from the couch and started toward the refrigerator.
     "Where are you going, honey?" I asked.
     "I'm getting the milk and the chocolate for you," he volunteered.  Any other day this would have been normal.  It's what we did:  He got the ingredients.  I made the chocolate milk.  He put away the ingredients. 
     And yet I heard myself say, "Sweetie...don't get up.  I'll get you your milk.  You feel too yucky today."
     As the words came out of my mouth, I knew I was creating a monster.  But every maternal instinct I possessed would not allow him to help that day. I temporarily erased all expectations for my son because he was sick.
     Gabe was seven at the time.  His sense of responsibility, despite being ill, was still there.  But I put a dent in it that day, and have continued to erode it further every day he's spent sick since. 
     So who can blame a man that spent every cold and flu season until he was eighteen being spoiled by his mommy?  I am grooming Gabriel to drive his wife crazy because it's impossible for me not to take care of him when he's sick.  Can I make up for it by teaching him to make his bed in the morning?  If not, I apologize to the future Mrs. Gabriel Myers. Because it feels too good to be needed by my little boy every now and again.
     So...The next time I'm ready to kill Craig when he complains about a sniffle in baby-talk, I will refer to this blog.  I will try to be sympathetic when he comes home from work and tells me he feels like crap, even though he's managed to interact with clients all day.  I will try to be more patient with him and keep the kids out of his hair while he rests.   I will remind myself that his mother's love conditioned him to behave this way.  I will remember that it's not really his fault.
     The next time he's sick...I'm handing him the phone and telling him to call his mom.
     And the next time I'm sick...I think I'll call mine, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Me, Myself & Mine

     When considering my web design today, I learned something new.  I work very hard to maintain ME while being married with three children.  But when creating a visual representation of MYSELF, I did not feel balanced until my children were represented.  I realized that it is impossible to separate myself from my kids because they are extensions of me.    
     Without them, I would not be the most current version of ME.  My children are reflections of me at my best when they are fun-loving, free-spirted, affectionate, and kind.  These are strengths of mine that I greatly appreciate.  But they are also reflections of me at my worst when a temper flares, a foul mood persists, or aggravated impatience is exhibited.  These are weakness of mine that I must accept and improve upon.  Their behavior teaches me about my behavior, and together we work to better ourselves.
     This morning was a bad morning.  I had a Mommy-Meltdown.  I lost my cool.  I used inappropriate language.  I set a horrible example.  This will all have to be undone, if that's even possible.  
     I will start with an apology for my behavior.  I will not offer excuses.  They already know how they contributed to the problem.  Believe me, I made that very clear.  Ugh.  
     I will look them in the eye and admit that I am not perfect.  I will tell them that I lost control of my emotions.  I will make a commitment to correct my behavior in the future.  And I will mean it. 
     I will demonstrate what an apology should look like.  I will demonstrate what an apology should sound like.  Most importantly, I will demonstrate what an apology should feel like.
     Hopefully we will all grow from our shared experience.  Because I am me.  And they are me.  We must work together to create the four best versions of ourselves possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Push Play

     Tonight is a pep talk kind of a night.  One of those nights that I would love nothing more than to doze off on the couch by the warm fire.
      I am stuck in relax mode.  I have failed on several counts to revert to mom mode.  I was quick to let the girls rent The Grinch because I knew it would keep them quietly occupied.  I ordered pizza for dinner so that I didn't have to cook.  I have enjoyed the easy distraction of my computer.
     But my leisure must come to an end.  I can't put off reality any longer.    There are things that need to be done.   Two little girls need help finishing their book reports.  The dogs need to be fed.  Laundry needs to be folded.  The mud-room floor needs to be found.  The dishwasher needs to be unloaded.  The rest of the mundane list isn't worth mentioning.  Nevertheless, it must be done.
     Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.  I know once I start, it won't be as bad as what I have premised in my mind.  Or maybe it will.  Either way, I'll feel better once I'm done.  So back to mom mode I go.  But it's gonna take some good music to keep me there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessed Friends

     Do you notice that it's harder to make friends as you get older?  I do.  There seems to be more barriers.  More walls. More obstacles.  It takes longer for the ice to break.  Trust has to be earned, rather than granted. 
     Over the weekend we attended a white elephant Christmas Party.  It was simple and fun.  Light-hearted and jovial.  Silly and comfortable.  I woke up the next morning feeling happy.  
     I was thankful for the easy dynamic of the evening.  There were no barriers as impromptu yoga poses were being struck on the couch.  The only wall to scale was the one we attempted to climb in pyramid form to capture the perfect picture.  Tipsy stilettos proved to be the most dangerous obstacles.  And the ice that needed breaking was to enhance the already glorious Rum Chata.
     There were no judgements to be made, only fun to be had.  The general acceptance of the group made me feel like a kid again.  Now that I'm older, I feel lucky to have found new friends such as these.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big Questions

Two summers ago, Gabriel asked innocently, "Mommy, what are the gays?"
I sat him down on our porch and had a compassionate conversation about what it meant to be a heterosexual versus a homosexual.  Most boys have crushes on girls, but some boys have crushes on boys (and vice versa.)  They don't choose for this to happen.  That's just the way God made them.  He understood this because he knows God makes us all of us special.  Being gay doesn't define a person, so the label of "the gays" (as he heard on television) could hurt someone's feelings.  I assured him I would love him the same if he was gay, and he should support any friends of his that he might later discover are gay.  
He walked away more grown up and tolerant, and it made me happy. 

Last summer, Gabriel asked, "Mommy, how do babies really get made?"

I sat him down in our kitchen and had an informative conversation about sex and reproduction.  We covered it all in great detail.  He understood when I told him that God made men and women fit together like puzzle pieces.  We talked about the icky words that made him squirm.  Erection.  Penis.  Vagina.  Sperm.  
     "Why would anyone want to do that Mommy?!" he asked, appalled. 
     "Well, buddy, because when you love someone, and you treat them with respect, and you're careful with their feelings: Sex feels good.  It feels like love.  The kind that makes your heart so happy that you can't help but smile." 
     I warned him sex could hurt people, too.  I compared it to driving a car.  When we treat a car with respect and drive safely, we arrive to our destination excited for the fun to begin.  But if we drive recklessly and don't have respect for the car, accidents happen, people can be hurt, and lives can change forever.
He walked away more grown up and informed, and it made me happy.  

Recently, Gabriel asked, "Mommy, is Santa Claus real?"

     I snuggled him in close to me like I did when he was a baby.  I told him that was a decision he had to make on his own.  It was his choice whether or not to believe in Santa.  I admitted truthfully that I still believe in the magic of Santa.  The anticipation of Santa creates joy and festiveness for kids and grown-ups alike.  The spirit of Santa encourages people to be kinder and more generous.  The tradition of Santa makes memories that will last a lifetime.  All of which are very real and very important. 
     "But does Santa put the presents under the tree or do you and Daddy?" he asked, still not satisfied. 
     "Well, honey, that answer depends on whether or not you choose to believe in Santa," I answered.
     He sat quietly.  He didn't push the issue.  He hugged me and went off to play.
He walked away more grown up and confused, and it made me sad. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Like Melons

     Not too long ago, Gabriel was having trouble with a kid at school (whom I shall refer to as Johnny.)  Johnny was repeatedly saying mean things to Gabe so that Gabe would feel bad in front of his peers.  For a few days, Gabe didn't mention it to me.  This wasn't the first time he's had trouble with this kid, and he probably suspected I would say what I always say, "If he's not being nice to you, then just ignore him and walk away."
     Finally, though, he'd had enough.  The kids and I were at Panera eating.  Gabe opened the conversation.
     "'s happening again."
     I could tell by the tone of his voice exactly what and whom he was talking about.
     "Have you asked your teacher for help?" I asked him.
     "No, and I don't want to," he said.  "Johnny only does it when we're all hanging out.  He doesn't like it when I get attention.  If I tell, my friends will know I'm a tattle-tail.  I really want to handle it myself, but I don't know how."
     "Have you tried to talk to him when you're getting along instead of when you're mad at him?"  I asked.
     "No," Gabe admitted.  "I could try that I guess."
     "I have an idea!" Taylor interjected.
     "What?" Gabe asked, willing to consider all possibilities.
     "Say something mean to me," Taylor instructed Gabe to role-play.
     "Taylor, you smell!  I wish you would brush your teeth!" Gabe dramatized.
     Taylor smiled with content, as though what Gabe had just said delighted her.  Then she breathed a deep sigh of relief and fondly declared, "Ahhhh...I like melons!"
     The table fell quiet.  Taylor continued to smile.  My mind raced to catch up with hers.  I shot Gabe a raised-eyebrow look of confusion.  He reciprocated the lack of understanding.  Taylor started to giggle.  That's when we got it: Taylor diverted our mean focus by thinking happy thoughts.
     The whole dynamic of our conversation changed.  Heavy became light-hearted, and we all laughed until our bellies hurt.  Her tactic was genius, and we all knew it.
     Gabe looked forward to the next run-in with Johnny.  He couldn't wait to use his little sister's off-the-wall strategy to see if it worked.  But something unexpected happened: Johnny didn't do it again.  Maybe it was coincidental.  Or maybe Gabe returned to school that day with a renewed sense of confidence.  Maybe he appeared stronger to Johnny, and Johnny chose not to mess with him.
     If it does happen again, Gabriel is armed with a tactic that will make him smile instead of frown.  Even if the diversion doesn't work, we'll have something relatable to talk about over dinner.  A dinner in which we will welcome the advice of his little sisters.  Because they see the world differently through their innocent little eyes.  And when I listen close enough, even I am able shed my jaded lens.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Choose to Smile

I work hard at living because I like to feel happy.  These practices leave me feeling the most content:
  • I follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way I would like to be treated.
  • I dwell on what is right instead of what is wrong, because we all have struggles.
  • I distance myself from negativity because it is contagious.
  • I behave the way I expect my children to behave.
  • I care for the feelings of others, because the world does not revolve around me.
  • I deliver my opinions carefully to those that I trust are open to receiving my ideas.  
  • I understand my perspective is not the only perspective.
  • I remember that two wrongs only make me just as wrong.
  • I recognize I am part of the problem when I am involved in a problem.
  • I apologize when I'm wrong, and I make it a point to learn from my mistakes.
  • I forgive, and then I make the difficult choice to forget.
  • I revisit the list above when I'm not happy and fix what's broken.  Woe is not me.
  • I apply all of the above to social networking websites.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Daddy-Daughter Dance

     I just returned from visiting my brother.  He has two sweet little girls that are five and seven.  Last spring, he and his wife of eight years separated.  It was horrible.  I've never heard a grown man's heart break like his did on a daily basis.  The thought of disappointing his daughters nearly killed him.  I mean it.  There were moments when I called just to make sure he was still alive.  I worried about him constantly.  If he called, I answered.  Whether it was while walking on the beach during our family vacation in California or shopping at Kroger alone with the kids, I took his call.
     Then spring turned into summer, summer turned into fall, and fall has turned to winter.  Divorce proceedings are underway, custody is still being decided, and he just underwent major back surgery; all as he continues to run a successful business.  His stress load has multiplied exponentially.  Yet he's standing taller and stronger than I've ever seen him.
     I watch him with his daughters and I am amazed.  He cares about their feelings.  He listens to what they have to say.  When he's made a mistake he gets down on one knee, looks them in the eye, offers them a sincere hug and says, "I'm sorry."  That's it.  I'm sorry.  No but to follow, no lesson to be learned, no excuse to be made.
     I look in his oldest daughter's room and I can tell how much she loves him.  Of all the girly chapter books on her shelf, an antique copy of Chip Hilton sits on her bedside table.  This is her current independent book of choice.  It sits next to the Cleveland Browns helmet they got at the last game together, and one of his old weathered footballs from high school.  He didn't tell her how to decorate her room.  She made these sentimental decisions on her own.
     I watch as his youngest daughter stands behind him on the couch and drapes her arms around his neck.  He grimaces in pain, but doesn't say a word.  "Be careful with your daddy's back," I say.  He shoots me an annoyed glare that tells me he's okay.  Then I hear him whisper in her ear that she is fine just where she is.  She smiles from ear to ear and kisses him on the cheek.
     I am impressed when he gets up to go sit at the kids' table at Denny's.  I know he hasn't slept well, and his daughters are perfectly content sitting with their cousins.  But their eyes light up when they see him approach, and they readily scoot over in the booth to make room for him.  Time with his daughters is precious now, and he is sure to make every minute count.
     I am touched as I listen to the three of them laugh together while telling us about their most recent adventures.  Just last week, he and his oldest were in a stall together in a women's public restroom.  Usually he stands outside the bathroom door and waits for her.  But she asked him to come in, because she missed him.  It was empty at the time, so he happily agreed.  However it filled up quickly, so they were forced to exit with apologies and embarrassed giggles.  The other women weren't offended.  They thought it was sweet.
     Even though my brother's current situation is less than ideal, I am so proud of him for making the most of it.  He is teaching his girls that quality is just as important as quantity.  He is teaching them to find all kinds of reasons to smile, instead of dwelling on the frown.  He is demonstrating the virtue of patience as they all work towards more time together.  He is setting an example of what it means to be a bigger person without having to say a word.  And when it's all said and done, his daughters will thrive because he spent time at rock bottom. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bananas Unite!

     The girlies start their winter volleyball league tomorrow.  They are both very excited.  So far, this is the only sport that our eight year old identical twins have agreed to love.  Taylor loved dance and gymnastics, but Sydney did not.  Sydney loved soccer and swimming, but Taylor did not.  Craig and I encouraged each of them to play the sports they enjoyed separate from her sister, but it's the company of each other that they love the most.
     So volleyball it is.  Taylor will attack with her left hand, and Sydney will swing with her right.  It makes sense.  They have been a winning team since conception.
     And for the time being, we luck out yet again.  Because even though we have three children, we only have two extra-curricular schedules to maintain.  So while we'll cheer for the girls to 'Go bananas!' on the court, we won't go bananas trying  to get them there.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pitying Me Sucks

     Man.  I'm having one of those days.  One of those days that feels awful inside my head, but if I were to try to explain why it wouldn't really seem so bad.  I don't feel good.  My head hurts and my whole body aches.  But I have too much to do to entertain the notion that maybe I should lay down, even though that's what I really want to do.
      So I'm taking a quick break to eat some yogurt and drink some coffee, in the hopes that I'll feel energized.  But so far, the only change I notice is a new rumble in my tummy.  This is not good.
     I don't have time for this.  I'm already behind as it is.  The house is in sorry shape.  I haven't filed our receipts and tax paperwork since, well, July.  Every closet in the house has become a danger zone.  I have clothes that need to be picked up from the tailor, but they've been there so long I'm nervous they've already been donated to Good Will.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.
     This was all true yesterday, too.  But yesterday I didn't mind.  Today, though, everything just feels heavier.  Tomorrow it won't.  But today it does.  And I hate that feeling.
     So I'm going to turn on some good music and trick myself into being in a good mood.  Then I'm gonna get my butt up off this chair and get to work.  Because the longer I sit here and feel sorry for myself, the crappier I'm going to feel.  In order to make my day bloom instead of gloom, I must suck it up and make the choice to let go of the three capital letters campaigning to ruin my day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Muffin Man

     Do you know The Muffin Man?  Because I sure do.  Yes...I know The Muffin Man.
     Before Gabriel turned two, The Muffin Man was his very favorite song.  We listened to it on repeat in the car over and over and over and over again.  It didn't matter if the trip was five minutes long or five hours, we listened to The Muffin Man from start to finish.  And Gabe sang along jovially every single time.  At first it was cute.  And because it's a festive little song, he'd get a kick out of it when we sang along with him.
     Eventually, though, we grew tired of The Muffin Man.  We tried our hardest to introduce other songs that he might also take a liking to.  But, ulitmately, he'd make yet another request for The Muffin Man.
     "Oh God..." one of us would mutter begrudgingly as we pushed play for the millionth time.
     But as soon as he heard the intro, Gabe's blue eyes would light up, his head would bob back and forth, and his feet would kick to the beat against his car-seat as he belted out the off-tune lyrics.  Every time, our initial feeling of disdain for the song would be replaced with endearing sentiment.  The Muffin Man made our little boy happy.  How could that be a bad thing?
     Then one day we were visiting my dad in rural Michigan.  We were taking Gabe on a golf cart ride around Dad's property when we stumbled upon a dead mole that had been stabbed by one of my dad's traps.  I thought it was pretty gruesome for a little boy to see, so I covered Gabe's eyes with my hands.  Unfortunately, I was a little too late.
     "Ewwww, Mommy!  What's that?" Gabe wanted to know.
     "It's a dead mole, honey," I told him with regret.
     "What's dead mean, Mommy?"  Gabe asked curiously.
     "It means he went up to heaven to live with God, sweetie," I tried to explain to him in a way that wouldn't scare him.
     He looked at me, his eyes wide with surprise.  Then, strangely enough, a great big smile covered his face.  "You mean The Muffin Man?!" he asked, wild with excitement.
     I was confused.  I looked to Craig for help, but he was just as caught off guard by Gabe's random question as I was.
     But then it hit me: Every time Gabe requested The Muffin Man in the car, either Craig or I responded with a dreadful "Oh God..." in negative anticipation of the amount of times we'd be forced to listen to the song on repeat.  As a result of our sarcastic attitudes, our son now believed that God was The Muffin Man.
     "Yep, Gabe," I reassured him.  "He went to live with The Muffin Man.  So say a little prayer for him that he's having a good time on Drury Lane."
     "Okay, Mommy!" Gabe agreed enthusiastically.
     Craig, my dad and my step-mom looked at me curiously.  I told them I would explain my revelation later.  When I did, they couldn't stop laughing.  And while it was funny, I knew I had some work ahead of me.  First and foremost, Craig and I were in need of attitude adjustments.  Who were we to complain about something so simple that brought our little boy so much joy?  And, eventually, I would have to figure out a way to break it our innocent son that God was not actually The Muffin Man.  But for the time white lie comforted his first experience with death.  And I don't think God or The Muffin Man minded.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keepin' It Real...

     Recently I had a fellow blogger comment on her appreciation for the depth of my blogs.  And while it was a very nice compliment, I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.  Because while I'm alone at my keyboard, I can go deep.  But when I'm with a crowd of people, I prefer to keep it light.  So light that the term airhead might be a more applicable description for me.
     Just the other day, we were having drinks with a great group of people.  In attendance were old friends, new friends and business acquaintances.  While Craig worked early to get the necessary business conversations out of the way, I was having fun catching up with my old friends and getting to know my new ones, who happened to be world travelers.
      Daryl, my new friend, was surprised to learn that I loved the city of Charlotte.  He was very curious as to what made  me love it so much.  He's 31, single and doesn't have children.  He was intent on listening with an open-mind so that his next experience to Charlotte might be better than his previous trips, which have been lacking.
     I told him about the shopping, both designer and antique.  I gushed about the scrumptious food on every corner.  I marveled about the romantic quaintness of the city.  I was impressed with how safe I felt walking the streets at night.  I appreciated the upscale classiness that merged with down-home charm.  I was amazed by the preservation of historical beauty as it is a town that makes old feel better than new.  I went on and on with dramatic flair.
     As I spoke with reverence to Charlotte, I could tell by the undeniable look of confusion plastered on his face that my explanation of the city was nothing like he'd before experienced.  Feeling the need to add strength to my claim, I told him that a mutual friend of ours (who is also a world traveler)  was the one who referred us to the city in the first place.  In fact, we even visited his home while we were in town.
     Suddenly, his confusion changed to frustration.  "Wait!!!  Are you talking about Charleston?!!!" he exclaimed, already knowing the answer to be true because that's where our mutual friend lives.
     "Oh my God!"  I doubled over with embarrassed laughter.  "Yes!!" I squealed as I cupped my hand over my mouth in surprise.  "Forget about Charlotte!  I've never stepped foot in that city!" I admitted in hysterics.  "But Charleston is fabulous!!!"  
     Daryl shook his head from side to side in amused disgust, and threw his hands in the air in exaggerated defeat.  I was mortified.  But, God, it was funny!
     I wish it ended there...but it doesn't.  A little while later, we were all talking together in a circle when the subject of Brazil came up.  Craig asked if it was a country I'd ever consider going to visit.  
     I looked at him sideways due to the negative assumption in his tone.  "Sure I'd go!"  I reassured our audience.  "I mean, seriously, do I seem like the downer of the group?" I made light of the obvious beer buzz I was enjoying.  
     People laughed.  I should have stopped there.  But I didn't.  As usual, I felt the need to continue.
     "Besides...I speak Spanish really well, so I'd be able to get you around!" I boasted to Craig.
     The circle fell quiet.  Dangerous smiles lurked on everyone's face but mine, threatening to make me the punchline of the joke.  
     Daryl's friend, the other world traveler, kindly offered, "Yes...except they speak Portuguese in Brazil."  
     Airhead strikes again.  Crap!  The room erupted into laughter.  Once again, I laughed just as hard along with them.  What else was there to do?
     And in that instant we went from being new friends to old friends.  Because now we have a collective story to "remember when" the next time we're together.  Hopefully, it won't always be me providing the entertainment in the future, but I won't make any deep promises.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Living Will

     I fear death.  It's not the end that scares me, but rather the feeling that I've only just begun.  I'm afraid for my children to grow up without my guidance.  I have so much left to teach them.  At 8, 8, and 10 they are just entering the tough years. The years that will be plagued with an overload of confusing emotions.  They're going to need my help to figure out who they are and where they stand in this great big world.  If I am here to offer them a strong foundation of where they came from, then it will be much easier for them to understand, love and accept the direction of their own lives.
     Gabe's innate sense of fairness is unwavering.  I need to help him navigate through the reality that life isn't always fair.  Taylor's charismatic spirit is larger than life, and she commands attention everywhere she goes.  I need to help her blend in when necessary and take comfort in sharing the stage.  Sydney is always careful with the feelings of those around her.  I need to help her develop a thicker skin when the world isn't kind in return.
     All of this takes time.  And I pray to God that I will be here to continue to offer them support when I'm eighty years old.  But just in case I'm not...I write.  And in every entry, I leave for them a little piece of me.  A glimpse into what I would say or do in a given situation.  The encouragement necessary to make the often difficult choice to be the bigger, better person.  A cheerleader for taking comfort in who they are on the inside, instead of altering who they are on the outside.
     Through my words, they will hear my voice.  Through my voice, they will know they are loved.  And with my love, they will find strength.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bah Hum Bug.

     I'm not a big fan of the holiday process.  Don't get me wrong, I love to spend time with my family.  And I'm thankful for the few times a year in which spending time as a collective whole is made a priority.  But I feel as though the pomp often outweighs the circumstance.
     I don't look forward to decorating for the holidays.  Because my idea of simple decorating doesn't usually coincide with the rest of my family.  For example, I'd be perfectly content with a tree, stockings and some carols during the Christmas season.  But somehow that never seems to happen.  The kids want more.  Craig wants more.  They want to "go all out."  In theory, that's fine.  In reality, that means wasting one full weekend pulling boxes out of storage, tearing the house apart, and then putting it back together again.  All the while dreading the day after Christmas knowing that we'll have to repeat the process to take it all down.
     In the meantime, I get overwhelmed with the gifts.  The fun of giving is often negated by the expectation of the gift.  Then, there's the pressure to be thankful enough.  Because too often I notice that part of the reason people give is for the praise they'll receive after the gift has been opened.  I certainly don't want to hurt any feelings, but how many times can I say thank you for a cell phone cover?   Are cartwheels necessary?  There's nothing worse than when you feel like you've disappointed a gift giver because your reaction isn't quite what they expected.
     As I type this, I know I sound like a real downer.  And it's not because I'm a grinch (well maybe a little.)  But my favorite gift of all is time.  Because of this, Craig no longer buys me birthday gifts.  The only thing I ask is for him to play hooky from work on my birthday.  Every year he pretends it's not possible.  Every year he delights me when I wake up and find out for sure that he was only teasing.  And then we spend the day doing whatever we want.  No agenda.  No expectations.  Just time.  It's always one my happiest days of the year.
     Even Thanksgiving kills me.  I want to spend my time being thankful, not annoyed that my feet hurt from all the time spent in the kitchen.  The production of the meal and the clean-up required after always puzzles me.  I'm usually not thankful that I'm working my butt off on a holiday.
     So there you have it.  Those are the reasons I drive my mom, the Queen of Pomp, crazy during the holidays.  Because she claims that everything I just complained about makes her happy.  I can't wrap my brain around her way of thinking, and she certainly doesn't understand my point of view.  I laugh when she teases me about my annoying anxiety leading up to the holidays, and she laughs as I insert one-liners wherever I can that make light of her over-the-top party-planning extravaganzas.  In the end, we find ways to merge.  She comes with cheer to help us decorate for Christmas, and I make sure she's never standing at the sink alone.  And we always have a good time.  For this, I am the most thankful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Scary Truth

     I've written a book.  There is a title, a beginning, a middle, and an end.  There is rise.  There is fall.  It's comedic.  It's dramatic.  Really...shouldn't that be enough?  
     When I first started writing it years ago, I assumed the aforementioned would, indeed, be enough.  I envisioned a copy on my bookshelf, three reserved copies for my kids (especially my twin daughters),  and perhaps a few special copies to share with those who have loved me most and supported me through this process.  I never wrote it with the intention of selling it.  I wrote it to document our story of survival through the early years of parenting.
     But then...
     Then people started to read it.  Then people started to like it.  Then people started to make me wonder: "What if?"  
     And this is the space in which I am currently stuck.  Because in order to publish a successful book in this day and age, you have to be much more than a writer.  You have to be tech-savvy enough to build a website...which I am not.  You have to be artistic enough to create a book that will be judged based on its cover...which I am not.  You have to be comfortable promoting yourself...which I am not. 
     So the first step I am taking to get unstuck is this blog, which is necessary to establish my platform audience.  But with this step comes an unbelievable amount of self-doubt.  Who is going to care what I have to say?  Who is going to get tired of hearing my opinions?  Whose once favorable impression of me will change because I am now seeking attention?  I'm usually a pretty confident woman.  But this blog replaces my confidence with insecurities.  
     Yet I'm going to continue on.  I'm going to give it my best shot.  Because what if I could make a go of my writing?  What if I could make a living doing what I love to do?  What if the words I have to offer could help people?  What if my kids could see me work hard enough to make my dream come true?  What if I could show my daughters that being a working mom is cool, too?
     So here I am.  This is me.  Scared to death to post this blog that exposes my truest feelings on the matter.  And yet I will take a deep breath, close my eyes tight, and ignore the pounding of my heart as I push Publish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'Til Death Do Us Part?

A recent conversation with friends proposed this topic: If your spouse died, would you remarry? 
Without hesitation, Craig and I both agreed that we would remarry as we would miss the companionship of marriage.  He easily admitted that he would want me to be happy, and I wished the same for him.  I did forewarn him, though, that I would haunt him if he picked a woman that didn’t place great value in the feelings of our children.  Because if they were to lose me, I wanted to be replaced by a woman who would love them, set a good example for them and have their best interests at heart.  He agreed that was a justifiable threat.
I was surprised, though, by the response of the other two couples in the room that did not yet have children.  One woman was sure her husband would remarry for companionship, but vowed she would live the rest of her life alone in solitude.  He was the only man she’d ever loved, and was quite certain that her broken heart wouldn’t allow her to love in a different direction.  She was so adamant that her husband would remarry that he opted out of the conversation despite her nervous probing.  My assumption is that he cared too much about her feelings to risk hurting them by considering the possibility of the very truth she feared.
The third couple did not answer the question in regards to themselves, but instead focused on the certainty that they would not want their spouse to remarry.  The man from the second couple asked, “If you were dead, what would it matter?”  Neither one could offer a reasonable answer, and remained un-shamed by their shared possessiveness.
I couldn’t help but wonder what this conversation said about Craig and I as a couple.  Were we able to wish for each other’s happiness because our children have taught us to love outside of ourselves?  Should we care that the only limitations we place on each other are based on the collective well-being of our kids?  Is our commitment to each other less than the commitment of the second couple, who will not be parted even by death?
There are no definitive answers to these questions, and they probably don't even apply because every relationship is different.  Whatever the case, I’m encouraged that Craig and I agree that life should be full of love after an unwanted death.  And I’m hopeful for the other couples, too, that they share in their own philosophies of 'til death do us part.  Because for a marriage to live long enough to find out what would really happen after one spouse dies, I think being on the same page in matters of the heart is fundamental.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Body Language

     The familiar concave line on the side of my thigh is missing.  The toned rise of my perky hamstring has fallen depressed.  It isn't often that I reach this point, because regular exercise is a norm in my life.  But my legs tell me I've been on vacation too long.  So this morning it's back to the gym I go.
     We all have different triggers that motivate us.  I used to let my stomach do the talking, but that changed for two reasons named Sydney and Taylor.  Because of them my belly is no longer a problem area, but just a problem.  So instead of counting on my twin-squishy mid-section to speak to me, I now listen to my legs.
     I'm curious: What body part do you entrust to tell you the harsh truth that you need to get back into the gym?  And when it speaks, do you listen?
     I look forward to the conversation after I've resumed my mission to rock my skinny jeans.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Relevant Reminder

The house is clean.  The kids are in school.  The dogs are sleeping.  It is so quiet that I can hear the hum of the refrigerator.  I actually have time to sit and write.  I'm sure that if I thought, even for a second, that I could come up with something that needs to be done.  But instead I am opting for "me" time.  Why is it that when you become a mother, you can't do this without feeling guilty?  Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  I can't quite decide.
I love it that I no longer crave a mid-day nap. Yet, that used to be my favorite indulgence.  I appreciate that my house tends to be tidy.  Yet, I used to take pride in the fact that I could let myself relax even if it wasn't.  Now I can only unwind when everything is put away and order is restored.  We used to eat out, pick up or order in all the time. Now that seems like chaos and, instead, cooking and cleaning up after seems easier.
I used to wish the evenings away so that we could put the kids to bed.  Now, I glance at the clock and wonder where the night went?  I used to pray that one day our girls would learn how to talk.  Now I find myself wondering if they're ever going to stop.  I used to want to keep every piece of artwork that the kids ever made.  Now, I carefully select the masterpieces and sneak the rest into the trash.
     I used to think I looked my best in a pair of high-heels.  Now, I'm happiest in flats.  I used to eat an entire bag of chips, and feel as though I deserved them.  Now I eat only a few at a time, and then suffer from lingering guilt.  I used to kill every plant that ever got near me.  Now, I have a green enough thumb that even my step-dad trusts me to babysit his plants.
     I used to smother Tucker with affection and feel frustrated that he wasn't a lap-dog.  Now he is ignored most of the time and won't leave my side.  I used to complain that Craig didn't talk enough.  Now I am impatient with his rambling and tell him to get to the point.  I used to take pleasure in mindless television shows, because I could turn off my brain while I watched them.  And now I prefer a quiet room and my computer, because I like to hear myself think.
     When I grew up, I couldn't wait to leave my small town.  Now I often find myself longing for the simplicity of little old Edon.  I used to avoid eating fish at all costs because I hated it. Now, I am training myself to tolerate it because I know it's good for me.  I used to be the loudest one at the party.  Now I prefer to sit back and let someone else wear that hat.  I used to want to stand out.  Now I like to blend in.
     I used to like to argue, because I knew I could win.  But now I often bite my tounge, because I see no point in the battle.
     It's funny, isn't it? How we change? How we grow? I had no idea where I was going with this blog when I started writing it. But now I get it.
     Just yesterday, I said to Craig: "You have lived with me for 12+ years. How can you not know this about me?" 
I can't remember why I said it. It could have been for a number of reasons. Maybe he put his bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher, instead of the bottom rack like I prefer. Maybe he didn't give Tucker and Bella fresh water when he fed them, like I prefer. Maybe he was joyfully singing at the top of his lungs in the morning, instead of being quiet and near-grumpy, like I prefer. Maybe he left only one pillow on the bed for me, instead of leaving me two, like I prefer.
     Whatever the case, I am constantly evolving and changing. So, maybe I need to be more patient with him for "not knowing me" when it's pretty obvious that I'm still figuring myself out, too.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Not About You

     Parenting identical twin daughters is a constant education.  One of the most important lessons I've learned thus far is that what you don't say is just as powerful as what you do say.
     Because of this, I've become very aware of how I praise my daughters.  A simple "I love you, Sydney" might cause Taylor to burst into tears.  Because she only hears, "I don't love you, Taylor."  That's not at all what I meant, and not even close to true.  But, it's the truth that Taylor infers.
     Both girls are equally affected this way with compliments, as well.  For example, it would be risky to tell Taylor she has a beautiful smile.
     "Hey!" Sydney would react, stung by my kindness to Taylor.  "What about my smile, Momma?"
     "I love your smile, Sydney," I used make the effort to reassure her, always shocked by the fact that they forget they have the exact same smiles.
     "Then why did you only say it to Taylor?" she would continue to challenge.
     I used to take the time to coddle them through their negative inferences.  I used to worry that I would damage their self-esteem if I didn't praise them equally.  I used to fall victim to their ploys for attention.
     But then I realized that by placating the twin that was fishing for a second-hand compliment, I was negating the special intent of the original compliment paid to the first twin.  So I have adopted a different approach:
     "Sydney, when I told Taylor I liked her smile, was I talking to you or Taylor?" I now ask.
     "Taylor," she admits, most often with shame because she’s been busted for attempting to steal the spot-light from her sister.
     "That's right, I was talking to Taylor.  So, was I thinking about Taylor's smile or your smile?"
     "Taylor's," she says.
     "That's right.  When I give Taylor a compliment, it's not about you, Sydney.  It's about Taylor.  And you need to learn to be happy for sissy when someone says something nice to her, instead of being sad for yourself."
     It's a tough love approach, that's for sure.  But my daughters will be compared to each other their entire lives, and I don't want one to automatically feel bad every time her sister feels good.  And when they merge in and out of social groups, hopefully this will teach them to be comfortable sharing the spotlight with their friends as well.  Because at the end of the day, it's not all about Sydney or Taylor.  And if they can understand and appreciate this lesson, then all of their relationships will benefit.  Because not only will they learn to decipher a compliment from an insult, but they'll also be aware that there are consequences for what they do say and consequences for what they don't say.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's Your Button?

     I woke up this morning wishing for a pause button.  I looked forward to today, but wasn't quite ready to start it.  I just wanted a few minutes, so I could wake up at my own pace before the early morning rush resumed.
    On my way home from dropping off the kids, I reminisced about other times in my life when I wished for different buttons:
     When my parents first got divorced, I wished for rewind during the holidays.  It was a pain for my brother and I to dissect our visits home from college, only to be reminded in both places that something was missing.
     When Craig was being treated for cancer while I was pregnant with the the twins, I wished for fast forward on a daily basis.  We both felt like crap and were anxious to learn what the future would bring.
     When the twins were little, there were days when fast forward didn't cut it.  Instead I wished for eject, because they were so naughty that it didn't seem like a battle I'd ever win.
     Then, mixed into all that I mentioned above, there were spontaneous moments that I never wanted to forget.  For those precious moments that reassured me life was worth the struggle, a record button would have been nice.
     But right now, I'm at pause.  And I'm thinking that's a pretty good place to be.  Because who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Flip-Side

  I grew up a gymnast.  Not to be confused with, "When I grew up, I did gymnastics."  Because that might falsely lead someone to believe that there was more to my identity than flipping and sticking.
     Yes, I dabbled with other sports.  And I was actually quite good.  I was the lead-off hitter for my summer softball team, and even executed a triple play in the field on one occasion.  I was also the starting setter for my high school volleyball team that was one game away from State Championships my senior year.
     But all that was peripheral.  Even though I loved it, I couldn't play softball for my high school because it conflicted with competitive gymnastics season.  And volleyball only worked because it was an off-season sport, and I was willing to play it in addition to gymnastics.  By the end of each volleyball season, my back was a mess from overuse.  So much so that I squatted at the knees to pick up the ball before I served, because it was too painful to bend over.
     Friends didn't invite me to their homes after school during the week, because they knew I'd be at the gym.  While everyone else slept in, I woke to an alarm at weekend sleepovers to make it to practice on time.  The only acceptable excuse for missing practice was if I was puking.  Because broken bones could be taped up.
     There was no quitting.  Believe me, I tried when I was 13.  I wanted to be done.  I was over it.  My mom wouldn't take no for an answer.  My coach wouldn't take no for an answer.  My community wouldn't take no for an answer.  Why?  Because I was a gymnast.
     I trained on a beam that was four inches wide, yet there was no balance in my life.  This irony made me angry after my body finally broke down to end my career in college.  I dwelled on what I missed because of the sport.  I was resentful of all that time wasted in the gym.  I felt as though I had nothing to show for it.
     Eventually, though, I realized I was wrong.  I traded in my bitterness for gratitude because I was able to see the flip-side (no pun intended.)  As a result of my unbalanced past, I now make balance a priority in our home.
     We say no to invitations when we're in need of quiet family time.  We keep our schedule flexible so that we have time for spontaneous fun.  We expect the kids to live up to their academic potential, but don't insist on perfection.  To honor their hard work, we allow them free time that is just that: free.  The kids help determine their sporting schedules, and I factor in ease and convenience when deciding on locations.  When a previous coach of Gabe’s “motivated” his players by screaming negative insults, we yanked him from the team.  Because it doesn't have to be all or nothing, and I wanted my son to learn early that it is healthy to walk away from behavior like that.
     We often refer to ourselves as Team Myers.  Because we all live together, and we all matter.  There has to be give and take, compromise and sacrifice.  Gabe is currently troubled because he has to start choosing between all the sports that he loves.  Because it's not fair to the rest of us when his overabundant athletic schedule dictates our lives.  Sydney and Taylor opted out of soccer this year, which burst their daddy's bubble as he was all set to coach them.  They tried volleyball instead and fell in love.  Now when the weather is nice, we all go outside and play family volleyball.  The kids are thrilled with their father's over exaggerated lack of skills, giggling together and coaching him the whole time.  Craig admits that he's enjoying this time with the girls even more than if they'd played soccer.
     As for me?  I grew up a gymnast terrified to fall off the beam.  As a result, I parent with balance and flexibility.  And I've got a happy family to show for it.